THE BUREAU of Corrections has released more than 350 inmates, including sick and elderly ones, as it tries to decongest the country’s jails. 

“I hope that we never see each other again,” bureau Director-General Gerald Q. Bantag told inmates in Filipino at a ceremony for their release, which was streamed live on Facebook on Tuesday. 

“Our lives are so short, whatever we have learned… let us keep in our hearts so to not repeat our mistakes because in the eyes of the people and the eyes of the Lord, you have already suffered enough,” he added.  

Mr. Bantag told inmates to despise the thought of returning to prison which they call “the grave of the living.” 

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla said 300 more inmates would probably be freed in October, and more in the coming months. 

“If the debt has been paid, the discussion should be over and the detained should be sent free,” he said at the event. “What’s important is for everyone to turn over a new leaf and return to their families.” 

The Budget department has proposed a P28.19-billion budget for the Justice department next year, 11.7% higher than this year.  

With 215,000 prisoners nationwide, Philippine jails and prisons are overfilled more than five times their official capacity, making it the most overcrowded prison system in the world, according to the World Prison Brief (WPB).  

As of 2017, it had 933 jails — seven national prisons and 926 city, district, municipal and provincial jails, which are not enough to contain inmates, three-quarters of whom are at the pretrial stage, WPB said on its website.  

Many jails in the Philippines fail to meet the minimum United Nations standards given inadequate food, poor nutrition and unsanitary conditions. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan